Chapter 5 // Chapter 4 // Chapter 3 // Chapter 2 // Chapter 1
Ivan’s head ached as he stood outside to
watch Samuel prance through the snow, leaving small paw prints behind. Ivan’s lips pressed down on his cigarette and exhaled
through his nose. The smoke was carried away by the light breeze. Ivan watched
it dissipate into the morning air. Smoking was a bad habit he had picked up a
long time ago. He knew it was bad for him, but he couldn’t die and any damage
was rapidly repaired the longer he went without smoking. However, Alfred despised
the smell. He couldn’t stand the sight of a cigarette ever since so many humans
he cared for died of lung cancer. Ivan had tried to quit for him, yet here he
was with another cigarette between his lips. Usually, they made him feel
calmer, but today it only made him feel worse.
Ivan dropped the cigarette and ground
it into the snow with his foot. Samuel noticed this and looked up from his spot
in the snow. He watched Ivan curiously, ears twitching and snow clinging to his
long brown fur. “What do you want?” Ivan harshly called out and hugged his arms
around himself. It was warming up, but spring had yet to come this year and
Ivan felt colder than usual. Samuel chirped in response and trotted closer.
Ivan took a step back and shooed the cat away. It wasn’t that Ivan didn’t like
the cat, he just didn’t participatory feel like behaving in a caring manner
toward it right now.
Samuel seemed to take the hint and
pranced off somewhere into the distance. Ivan clenched his fists and sighed. He
reached into his coat to grab another cigarette, but he stopped himself. He
didn’t need it. He knew he didn’t need it.
Ivan sat down in the snowy porch chair
beside him. His hair chilled the back of his neck, still slightly wet from his
morning shower. He shouldn’t have come outside, but Alfred didn’t like leaving
Samuel alone outside and Alfred wasn’t here to watch him.
Ivan rested his hands on his knees, but
he quickly tensed. His hands gripped his knees and forced himself to stop
trembling. He needed to calm down. Alfred was at the store and would be home
soon. It wouldn’t take long, but long enough for Ivan to come up with some way
to explain to Alfred why they could no longer be together. He would be upset,
certainly, but if Ivan could play his cards right, Alfred would understand and
realize just how unsafe he was with him, and leave just like everyone else.
Ivan was just speeding up the process and that was better than stringing this
along and getting them both hurt.
His talk with Francis earlier had done
nothing more than prove to him he didn’t deserve Alfred. Alfred had put up with
so many things he’s done. Slowly, his mind wondered back to when times were
Speaking with the newly form United
States of America had been a must. He had met him once before, when the young
man was merely a colony that cowered behind England’s leg at the sight of a
stranger in his home.
The air in North America had him
sweating and ill from heat. Meeting the illusive United States was worth the
suffering though. His gorgeous smile was inviting and captivating. Ivan’s
nervous exterior was reflected in the younger nation’s actions. Isolation
wasn’t ending for the new nation, but making some temporary friends was a must.
The most shocking thing Ivan came across was that America wasn’t frightened of
him. He smiled naturally and stuck by Ivan’s side throughout his visit.
America never showed any signs of
mistrust when Ivan spoke to him or walked along beside him. Ivan looked forward
to his daily walks and meals spent with the young man. The two of them drew so
close that Ivan came to know him as Alfred, rather than America. Alfred made
him feel as though he finally had someone who accepted him and understood him.
All his life, that was what he had wanted and he believed he had finally gotten
it, but in the end it had been ruined.
Alfred’s mistrust of Ivan’s government
and the brutality in the way Ivan spoke only resulted in broken bones and
bloody noses. Ivan hadn’t understood why Alfred was so untrustworthy of him. Ivan
truly believed he was doing something right for a change. His people seemed
happy and his bosses promised him they’d make him better, stronger, more
powerful. He barely registered the training, demanded obedience, and the chill
that ran up his spin every time his boss looked in his direction as signs that
things were very, very wrong. Alfred seemed to see it though, but his glares
and discomfort did nothing to change Ivan’s mind. If anything, he believed the
American was turning his back on him, just as everyone else had. Ivan was
content with his newly formed union. If Alfred didn’t want to be a part of the
family, Ivan couldn’t care less.
The sudden reminder of the Cold War made
Ivan realize his hands were shaking and his eyes were trained on the white
slush beneath his feet.
The panicked screeching of a bird
jolted Ivan out of his thoughts. Ivan turned to look to find Samuel connecting
with the snowing ground after jumping from the nearby tree, blood on his fur
and mouth, dripping onto the snow. A dead bird was held between the cat’s
teeth, his innocent eyes lit up as he trotted back toward Ivan.
Ivan weakly gasped and took small step
back. That cat meowed and dropped the dead carcass at Ivan’s feet, looking
proud and expectant. The blood turned the white slush red. Ivan felt sick. The
sight of the dead bird wasn’t anything new or disconcerting when compared to
the past atrocities Ivan had witnessed with his very own eyes. However, the
growing sense of rage and self loathing that bubbled up from the pit of Ivan’s
stomach only made this situation appear worse than it actually was.
Alfred, his little bird, and Ivan, this
oblivious little cat, were locked in a never ending struggle to protect
themselves from one another. Alfred would be harmed no matter what he did,
because Ivan was a hunter, a killer. Ivan needed others to live and in the end
it always ended in bloodshed, unless Alfred spread his wings and left Ivan
alone to wallow in his own sadness. He shouldn’t have been mad, he shouldn’t
have been so upset, but after his thoughts had trailed so far into the past,
Ivan was on edge. It all had to go somewhere.
“You stupid, STUPID LITTLE ANIMAL!”
Ivan grabbed the cat by the scruff on the back of its neck, as tears burned his
eyes and dripping down his cheek, and pushed it back into the house.
Alfred hummed along to the radio as he
pulled into the driveway. He grabbed the bag full of his purchases from the
passenger seat and slipped out of the car and into the chilly world around
them. Alfred tugged his coat round himself and trudged toward the front door.
Alfred hated the cold, but he loved
spending time with Ivan more. Alfred pressed the key into the lock and unlocked
the door. As he entered the manor, Alfred didn’t expect for the first thing he
heard to be Ivan’s enraged voice shouting Russian curses at the top of his
“Babe?” Alfred called out in worry and
dropped the groceries, “Ivan, what’s wrong?”
Ivan was found shaking with rage,
trailing down his burning cheeks. Samuel found himself backed up against the
wall, back arched, ears back, and fur standing on its ends. “I hate you!” Ivan
screamed, “I hate you! Why are you like this?! I-I…”
“Ivan, stop!” Alfred shouted. Ivan
gasped, taken aback by Alfred’s sudden entrance and turned around in shock. His
eyes wide with terror reflected the fear in Alfred’s. Seeing a chance to
escape, Samuel took off toward the kitchen at full speed.
“Alfred…” Ivan breathed, his voice
suddenly gone, “I-I… I didn’t expect you back so quickly,”
Alfred’s eyebrows scrunched together as
he took in the scene with confusion. His mouth hung open at the sight of tears
on Ivan’s face and the redness of his cheeks. Ivan was breathing heavy as he
attempted to regain his breath and think of something to say. While Alfred
looked at him head on, Ivan avoided his gaze, searching the room for anything
other Alfred’s eyes. “Ivan…” Alfred said carefully and motioned in the
direction Samuel had run. “Look at me… What was that?”
Ivan swallowed thickly and shrugged his
“Ivan…” Alfred said, pushing for an
answer, “Don’t lie to me,”
“I am not!” Ivan said forcefully,
extremely on edge.
“Why were you yelling?”
“You are now!” Alfred raised his voice
to match Ivan’s. “What happened?!”
“Do not yell at me,” Ivan hissed.
“Then don’t yell at me!” Alfred stood a
bit taller, a bit more defensively. “What happened?”
Ivan growled and pointed in the
direction Samuel had run, his hands shaking. “That… That stupid cat! It caught
and… It killed a bird!”
Alfred’s chest deflated as he slowly
processed what Ivan had just told him. He was angry at their new cat for doing
something that was expected of any cat, domestic or not. Alfred chuckled in relief
and ran his fingers through his hair. Shaking his head in disbelief, Alfred
said, “They do that, big guy. Especially outdoor cats! He’s gonna catch a few
birds here and there,”
“You do not understand!” Ivan snapped,
his hands balled into fists, “He can’t!”
Alfred was taken aback by Ivan’s second
outburst. “We can train him-!”
Alfred took a step back. His heart
pounded in his chest as he searched for a solution. He didn’t understand why
Ivan was so angry. He knew Ivan was easy to anger, but this situation made very
little sense. The fact that Ivan seemed to be angry with him didn’t help
matters. “L-Look don’t… don’t fight with me…” Alfred took in a deep breath to
keep himself from panicking over something so simple. “…I thought you said you
didn’t like birds,”
“I don’t!” Ivan screamed, clearly
unsure on how to express his emotions to Alfred. “I can’t do this anymore!”
Ivan covered his face and slouched. He turned away from Alfred and Alfred felt
“Hang on!” Alfred grabbed his shoulder,
“What’s that supposed to mean?!”
“You need to leave,” Ivan pushed
Alfred’s hands off of him and escaped toward the living room.
“Wait!” Unshed tears prickled Alfred’s
eyes, “I don’t understand! What did I do wrong?!”
“Please!” Ivan called back, “Just go!”
“Do you not like the cat?!” Alfred
screamed as he followed behind Ivan, tears escaping as he blinked. “You need to
tell me these things before we go and-!”
“Alfred!” Ivan shouted and turned
around, “I can’t-! …You don’t understand!”
“Then help me understand!”
“I’m breaking up with you!”
Alfred stumbled backwards, “Y-You… But
I thought you… You said you loved…” Alfred was quickly losing his breath. He panted
and gasped, yet the air didn’t seem to make it into his lungs. He shook and
cursed himself for being so weak. It wasn’t as if he could control when this
happened, but he hated that Ivan had to see him back like this. He hugged
himself around his waist and doubled over, shaking, with tears trickling under
Ivan quickly realized what was
happening. His eyes widened in shock and grabbed Alfred’s shoulders. “No, nyet,
no, no,” Ivan tried to bring Alfred closer to himself, “This… This isn’t what I
wanted. I wanted to avoid this!”
“Don’t…” Alfred gasped, “Don’t y-yell…
at me,” Ivan pulled Alfred toward the living room couch and sat him down. He
sat down beside him, taking care to distance himself from Alfred, knowing he
might need his space considering earlier experienced with Alfred’s panic
attacks. Ivan remembered that the last one had been around the time Sputnik had
been launched and Alfred had been so terrified that Ivan was watching him from
space, waiting for the perfect moment to strike, that he had thrown himself
into a panic attack. Ivan hadn’t been allowed to touch him as Alfred back
himself into a corner and cried. It had been a horrible experience.
Thankfully, Alfred’s current attack
only lasted a few minutes. It had been fairly mild considering what it could
have been like. Alfred sat on the opposite side of the couch, his eyes trained
down at his hands. Ivan did the same. Quietly, Ivan breathed in and said, “I am
“…Yeah,” Alfred muttered.
“I didn’t mean to… I didn’t mean to
hurt you,” Ivan whispered, “I was just angry,”
Alfred sighed and nodded, “Whatever,
it’s… it’s okay. Let’s just forget about it,”
Ivan didn’t speak for a moment and
Alfred tensed up.
Ivan sighed and shook his head, “This
is why I am breaking up with you,”
“What?! Ivan!” Alfred shouted, “Why are
you breaking up with me? What did I do?”
“Nothing!” Ivan admitted, “You did
“You are the bird!” Ivan screamed.
Alfred paused and realized very quickly
that he hadn’t understood a word of Ivan had just said. “…What?” Alfred asked.
“Y-You kept saying I was the cat! Why
would you keep saying it if you didn’t mean it?!” Ivan begged, searching for an
“I was just joking!” Alfred explained,
“Sometimes animals look like their owners, ya’ know? My cat looks a little like
me! I thought you’d think it was funny!”
“It is not funny! You… You are not safe
with me! I’ll hurt you!” Ivan held out his hands as if the proof on them.
“W-What? Are you planning to hurt me?”
“No!” Ivan stood up, “We can’t be
together! The Cold War was a horrible time! If we keep up like this, it will
only happen again!”
“No, it won’t!” Alfred stood up to meet
Ivan realized very quickly where this
fight was going and he wasn’t going to put Alfred through that again, not so
soon after it just happened. “Sunflower, please, sit down before… I hurt you
again. You’re too young to understand,” Ivan lightly grabbed Alfred shoulders,
“You’re too naive and you can’t see what’s going to happen to us. I need to keep
The expression of Alfred face morphed
from one of anger and confusion to one of disgust and disbelief. He yanked
himself away from Ivan’s grasp and hardened his glare. “Get away from me!”
“Good,” Ivan smiled weakly, “This is
good! Now you see, da?”
Alfred wiped a few tears away, “How
“You know what, Ivan?” Alfred said
through his tears, “I loved you. I believed that you knew the real me; that you
looked past my age and actually took me seriously… I was wrong…” Alfred
groaned and cursed himself for crying. Furiously rubbed them away and glared up
at Ivan as fiercely as he could, “I’m not weak. I’m not some delicate little
flower! I’m not an idiot who needs protecting from the past! I know what I’m doing!
I can handle myself! …Don’t you get it? I loved you and I thought you loved me!”
Ivan’s gazed fell to the floor. He
didn’t say a word.
“Say it,” Alfred’s voice cracked, “Say
you love me and I don’t have to leave! We can talk about this! We can work this
out! We always have,”
Ivan stayed silent.
“FINE!” Alfred ran past Ivan, bumping
into him on his way out and slammed the front door behind him. When the cold
air met his face, Alfred realized he had walked out with just his coat and cell
phone. Ivan had been the one to pick him up from the airport, so he couldn’t
take Ivan’s car into town. He groaned at the lack of options. He couldn’t go
back inside for his things, not after just making a scene, and he wasn’t going
to wait for a taxi to pick him up outside of town. He tugged his coat around himself
and, in the end, briskly walked toward town, cursing the world with every step.
Ivan stayed rooted in the spot on the
living room carpet. Samuel peeked out from around the corner, mewing softly in
Ivan’s direction. He slowly inched closer and sniffed Ivan’s pant leg, waiting
to be interacted with. Samuel rubbed against Ivan’s leg and purred in a poor
attempt in comfort. Slowly, Ivan kneeled down and scratched behind
Samuel’s ear. “Stupid, stupid little cat…”